18 March 2011

Claire Fontaine at Air de Paris

The best contemporary art exhibition I have seen in a long time was Claire Fontaine's 'No Family Life', which ran from 11 February through 19 March 2011 at Air de Paris.

The work pictured beneath this text is called France (burnt/unburnt). Claire Fontaine describe it thus: 'Cette sculpture a deux aspects : avant et après leur combustion. L’œuvre évoque l’équilibre politique fragile du pays et elle constitue un danger dans son aspect non brûlé car n’importe qui pourrait y mettre le feu.’ [Basically: 'This sculpture has two aspects: before and after combustion. The work evokes the fragile political balance in the country and constitutes a danger in its unburnt state because anyone could light the fire.']

One of the things I appreciated most about this exhibition was that each work had a short explanation like this one above, which appeared after the title on the room-sheet. This is a really helpful way of accessing what could appear otherwise as one of those pretentious contemporary art exhibitions of 'found objects' installed in a white cube from which one is supposed to feel emanating great and profound meaning, but from which one actually usually just feels empty and depressed. (That is, behind the veneer of serious consideration, personal investment and interest, all of which are long-term side-effects of our complete loss of perception in late-capitalist society and certainly within the legitimised Art World). Or probably that's just me.

Anyway, there actually is some great ideas in this art show and I think it's really ace that Fontaine has allowed those to be made clear by way of simple explanations rather than vague allusions or indulgent inanity. Yes, their installations and sculptures are super-clever and necessarily abstract (this is art), but they also manage at the same time to undermine their own super-clever selves and function - through the very fact of their presence in the gallery in combination with these candid texts - as concrete and essential art pieces, as works that actually allow us to think or feel something, rather than being predicated on critical indifference (general numbness).

These works take a side, they have a clear stance and, moreover, one which is made explicit. This is the way we can start waking up from our collective 'dream' (also known as nightmare) and regaining some kind of perspective. Take a position! Be clear! There is no room left for pussy-footing or floaty indifference masked by the supposed desire of untethered, endlessly interpretable signification.

Whether it is via a canvas of Mao's face overlaid with Ikea catalogue text or a white neon window piece flashing "NO", "NO FAMILY", "NO LIFE", "NO FAMILY LIFE", Claire Fontaine hit the proverbial nail - or batter the proverbial ram (i.e. in Untitled (Suspended Battering Ram)), as it were - on the head. In describing the show's title work, Fontaine explains: 'Le néon aborde la question de la famille et des conditions de reproduction de la vie de façon ironique.' ['The neon raises questions of the family and of the conditions of the reproduction of life in an ironic way.'] Indeed.

For more info on Claire Fontaine, see Anthony Huberman's great interview with them for Bomb magazine: http://www.bombsite.com/issues/105/articles/3177.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


09 December, 2011 09:18  

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